Early in the morning I was washing my hands in the bathroom when I heard the phone ring and then the answering machine pick up. The voice on the machine was my neighbor, Bud, who lives about a mile away. I never look forward to hearing Bud's voice on the phone early in the morning, because he's usually calling to tell me he's spotted my cows in a place they shouldn't be. Today was no exception. I heard him say, "Jeff, there's a bunch of cows standing out in the middle of the road over here and I think they're headed into a cornfield."

I immediately got dressed and headed out to investigate the situation. When I went down the road on my four-wheeler, I noticed that the pasture that should be holding my cows was vacant. I also noticed that the field of soybeans immediately next to it looked a bit odd. The leaves were shining a little funny in the early morning light. I stopped at the buildings to see if the entire herd of cows had all come in for water at once. Maybe they were just playing mind games with me - trying to make it look like they were gone from the pasture when they really weren't.

The buildings were vacant. The pasture was vacant. The beans looked funny because the leaves were turned up after having a large swarm of bovines move through them in a short period of time.

I went down the road and found "cow evidence" in the middle of the road, which proved my herd was not where it was supposed to be. I was about a half mile from the buildings with two pastures on either side of a large cornfield. A 40-foot-wide strip of hay that was about a quarter-mile long connected the pastures. I knew that the herd was in the cornfield and would have to be moved to the far pasture before being returned home. I opened up the gate to the near pasture as a preemptive strike and then returned to the midpoint of the cornfield.

I called out to the herd twice and suddenly there was a commotion in the field. The herd came charging out of the field two abreast and hung a left. They were headed for the far pasture. After filing out in a neat and orderly fashion, they assembled in the far pasture in a mob.

I circled the mob and yelled, “Let’s go home!” The mob rotated 180 degrees and headed back from whence they came. They ran down the hay border and never once thought of taking a right turn into the cornfield despite the fact that there was no fence there to keep them out of the corn.

The sight of 200+ head of cattle running down a narrow little strip of hay with a cornfield on one side and a property line fence on the other was vaguely reminiscent of Dances with Wolves. I really should talk to the folks at Sony and see if I can get some specially made Dr. Doolittle Cam to mount on my head while I’m doing this kind of work so that others might be able to enjoy my efforts from a different perspective.

Once the mob assembled in the near pasture, I opened a gate to another connecting pasture and ordered the herd to return home. They complied in fine fashion. We returned to the buildings and I locked them in the feedlot where they would remain for the rest of the day. They know the rules: You do the crime, you serve the time in the penalty box. They would be released later in the day after they had time to sit in their room and think about what they had done.

Since I didn’t return Bud’s call right away, he assumed I was either gone or asleep, so he called Guy No.1 to tell him about the escapees. Guy No. 1 showed up in time to see the very last part of the operation as I was putting the cows in the feedlot. He asked where they had been and how I got them out. I think he was impressed with how I had done it and how quickly I had done it.

Start to finish, I spent 21 minutes on the whole thing.

Remember kids, I AM A PROFESSIONAL. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!

Do you suppose it would look bad if I went out to Custer State Park for the annual three-day buffalo roundup and I single-handedly had the job done in two hours? They wouldn’t hang me for spoiling everyone else’s fun, would they?

Dr. Doolittle
Bovine Wrangler